DIG THIS! SLO Landscape Strategies

When Aphids Attack!

David Spatafora: Insect Assassin

You’ve seen this guy hefting rocks, demoing concrete, and pruning, stacking, and planting away. Like all landscapers, David also spends a good deal of time fighting pests and plant predators. Gardens by Gabriel works to be as organic as possible, and that includes pest control. You may have heard of Integrated Pest Management (IPM), but if you haven’t, it’s a system we employ from start to finish (and beyond!) in our gardens that focuses on prevention and the least amount of intervention required.

David follows IPM when dealing with creepy crawly plant eaters, and none more often than the teeny-tiny aphid! Aphids  come in a rainbow of colors, are indiscriminate about their meals, and flock by the dozens to munch your plants. But because aphids swarm en masse, they can be easy to eliminate in large batches.

When dealing with aphids, it’s tempting, and it works short-term, to simply blast them off with a hose, but they often see that as a challenge to return! In terms of intervention, IPM means using the most benign products first in order to deal with pests. We like vegetable-based Horticultural Oil for pests like aphids. It’s a fungicide, a miticide, and an insecticide all in one. And according to Colorado State University Extension School, “Oils pose few risks to people and to beneficial insects.”

THE SCOOP

WHAT: Vegetable-based Horticultural Oil

WHY: IPM is safer for the environment, homeowners, and our crew. It leaves no residual effect on the soil.

HOW: Apply it with a small tank sprayer or spray bottle. Be careful of spraying the oil in full sun because the plant can burn, just a like a human being!

AND ACCORDING TO DAVID: “The key to controlling aphid infestation is persistance! Horticultural Oil may be used year-round during both dormant and growing seasons and may be used for organic production as well. Like rinsing plants with water, repeat application frequently!”

 

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Succulent Senecio

Happy coastal growers, Senecio are one of the most forgiving succulents when it comes to propagation. It’s time for us to start a new batch, so we’re going to take you through it step-by-step.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In order to start a new crop, clip the last 5″ of a plant that is doing well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’ll see that some of the “leaves” are quite close to the cut–these few should be removed. Snap these off and drop them in your compost pile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’ll be left with a cluster of leaves at the end and a 1.5 inch stalk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once you’ve amassed a collection, stack them on your potting bench.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plop the newly-exposed stalks into a receptacle with at least 2″ of soil mix (we combine our home-grown compost with a little pearlite).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Water them in, keep them warm and safe, and wait for their roots to grow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Urbanscapes For Sustainable Living.com

Renee Gunter of Urbanscapes for Sustainable Living designs and creates drought-tolerant gardens in the greater Los Angeles area. Her passion for planting sustainably is evident on her Facebook page, which we follow. A post caught our eye about home-grown foliage that benefit the garden as well as the belly, and with her permission, we copied it here.

The following is a copy of Renee’s list of beneficial and insectary plants. While not all will do well in the varying San Luis Obispo microclimates, many will, and they’re worth experimenting with!

1. Anise – Repels aphids, snails and slugs.
2. Borage – Repels pests that attack tomatoes and attracts pollinators to squash, tomatoes and strawberries.
3. Chives – Planted near apples help to control apple scab and that for grapes as well. Repels aphids, Japanese beetles and spider mites.
4. Cilantro (Santo) – Repels aphids & grasshoppers, potato beetles, spider mites. Attracts Lady Bugs.
5. Clover (white sweet clover, or crimson) – Long used as a green manure and plant companion, and is especially good to plant under grapevines. Attracts many beneficial insects. Useful planted around apple trees to attract predators of the woolly aphid.
6. Dill – Repels aphids and cabbage moths. Don’t plant dill near carrots or tomatoes! Give them each room as dill can have negative effects on them both. Attracts ladybugs.
7. Fennel – Do not plant fennel near coriander/cilantro, caraway, or wormwood; they hinder each other.
8. Garlic – Repels aphids, cowpea curculio, flea beetles, Japanese beetles, Mexican bean leaf beetles, root maggots, spider mites and squash vine borers.
9. Horehound – Repels grasshoppers; tiny flowers attract Braconid and Icheumonid wasps, and Tachnid and Syrid flies. The larval forms of these insects parasitize or otherwise consume many other insect pests. It grows where many others fail to thrive and can survive harsh winters.
10. Mint – Repels ants, aphids, cucumber beetles, flea beetles, imported cabbage worms, rodents, squash bugs and white flies. Spearmint attracts predatory wasps. Mint and parsley are enemies. Keep them well away from one another.
11. Onion – Repels bean leaf beetle, cabbage loopers, carrot flies, flea beetles, harlequin bugs, Mexican bean leaf beetles, mice, rabbits, spider mites and squash vine borers
12. Oregano – Planted near cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber or grape vine repels pests that attack these plants.
13. Parsley – Pepels asparagus beetles and carrot flies.
14. Pennyroyal – Repels ants.
15. Radish – Repels cowpea curculio, cucumber beetles, harlequin bugs, Mexican bean leaf beetles, squash bugs and stink bugs.
16. Rosemary – Repels imported cabbage worms, flies and slugs.
17. Rue – [Dangerous for kids & pets in my front yard only.] Repels aphids, cats, dogs, Japanese beetles, onion maggots, slugs and snails.
18. Sage – Repels cabbage loopers, carrot flies, flea beetles, imported cabbage worms and tomato heart worms; do not plant near cucumbers, onions, basil or rue.
19. Tarragon [Artemisia dracunculus] – Plant throughout the garden, not many pests like this one. Recommended to enhance growth and flavor of vegetables.
20. Thyme – Repels cabbage loopers and white flies.
21. Wormwood – Repels slugs

 

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Gabriel’s Tool Box

The right tool can make almost any landscaping task enjoyable. Just as easily, the wrong tool can make gardening uncomfortable, tedious, and seemingly endless. Here are a few of my favorite tools to keep on hand. These guys have performed well for me under a variety of conditions for a variety of needs. 
Silky Saws
These Japanese fine pruning saws are crafted by a high-voltage induction process, leaving them hard and sharp yet flexible. Their unique tooth structure on the blades allows for both a strong and clean cut. Instead of a series of teeth sharpened on simply 2 sides, Silky Saws somehow have sides to sharpen so they easily slide through the toughest branches. The quality of the steel is also very high, which is a difference of quality that day-in-day-out gardeners come to appreciate.
The Silky Pocketboy is my favorite for small, tighter pruning, like addressing a densely-branched tree. As a landscaping outfit, the bulk of the work that we do involves a medium-range pruner, with a blade that ranges from 8-12″. We like Silky’s curved and versatile Zubat, and the Gomtaro Prosentei, whose dual teeth (large at one end and small at the other) are the perfect pairing if you’re only carrying one knife. For the backyard orchard or stand-alone lemon tree, the Hayauchi Pole Saw is perfect for long-distance pruning. Ours have stood the test of time and durability.
Toshibo Pruners 
The second company we have come to admire is Tobisho, whose Secateurs pruners are a gardener’s dream. The Toshibo pruners are hand-forged, durable, and haven’t needed sharpening in over 2 months when normally that’s a weekly task. Their sleek, charcoal-colored handle is continuous with the razor-sharp blade which gives multiple subtle improvements to the way they handle, meaning that overall they feel much easier and lighter in your hand.
Finding the right tool for yourself is important, so don’t be afraid to shop around. Do give these companies a try when next you seek out gardening equipment.
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Dirt’s For The Birds

 

...And even they will find it hard to swallow! 

I’m a stickler about using the word “soil” when others may feel content to say “dirt.” Simply put: Dirt gets on your clothes and coats your car. Soil feeds your plants through a complex system of living and dying organic matter. Soil is practically worth its weight in gold. In fact, I call one of the major components of good soil, compost, “black gold.” A new-to-me garden blogger, Greg Seaman, wrote a piece for his blog recently that will help explain the importance of this essential garden nutrient. Read it here.

Remember: Soil is what you use to build your garden, and dirt is what you track through your house when your garden is done.

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Bare Root And Beautiful

As we button up our coats and wrap our scarves against the winds, Summer may seem like a distant memory–but try, for a moment, to recall last year’s array of sweet summery produce. Remember the delicious fruits: juicy plums, crisp apples, plump berries, and more? The way to get a head start on these summer crops is by planting your own fruiting trees now. How? With bare-root trees! Bare-root trees and berries are cultivated and nurtured throughout the year by growers around the country. Then, as the plants go dormant, workers gently remove dirt from the roots and wrap the root ball in sawdust, newspaper, or other insulating material, and prep it for shipping.

Now that you’ve acquired the taste for Summer, selecting the trees is the fun part! San Luis Obispo County residents have a huge diversity of trees available to them via local purveyors such as Bay Laurel Nursery and Farm Supply, and can easily plant themselves a kingly orchard. For the homeowner with less-than-ample growing space, consider multiple-budded trees, which have 3 or 4 varieties grafted onto them, meaning that one apple tree can provide you with early-, mid-, and late-season fruit.

Once you’ve picked out some favorites, it’s important to confirm that your choices will do well in your particular micro-climate. In much of the country, as air temperatures begin dropping below 50 degrees Fahrenheit in the Autumn, trees loose their leaves and enter a dormant period. Many fruit trees originate from these colder climates and need enough “winter chill hours” to send them fully dormant in the winter. The required number of hours that the tree spends at 45 degrees is considered its own personal “chill hours.” Fortunately for us, plant breeding has introduced trees that are “low chill” and do well with the reduced chill hours that our mild winter climate provides. Therefore, look for trees that are rated at 400 chill hours or less for best performance if your garden is in San Luis Obispo County.

Immediate coastal climates will require varieties with even fewer chill hours to do well (i.e. 1-200 hrs). Good selections for the foggier coast are figs, pomegranates, persimmons, kiwis, lemons, pineapple guavas and berries. If you’re gardening in North County, you have plenty of chill hours and need to be concerned more with winter hardy varieties that don’t mind freezing temperatures.When your trees and brambles arrive, take extra care with their delicate roots since they won’t be protected by soil and will easily dry out or freeze. Have some good compost on hand to amend the soil, and give yourself time to plant the trees the same day you bring them home. If you can’t plant them the same day, dig them partially into the ground or cover the root ball with layers of moist, insulating material. Come springtime, the plants’ well-established root system will provide you with happy, healthy fruit and flower production!

 

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Plant Puzzler Revealed!

Happy New Year to all! Gardens by Gabriel is happy to announce that our winners of last week’s Plant Puzzler were Madeline, Kaveh, and Greg, who correctly guessed Kniphofia rooperi.

Sadly, this brings our 6-week Plant Puzzler to a close. Thank you for your willingness to guess and share, and to pit your wits against some of my Mediterranean favorites! We’re pleased to be able to make a donation to the SLO Botanical Garden on your behalf, for each of your guesses. We’re rounding up to the nearest Benjamin for an even $100.

It was a close count to determine the top two guessers, but after tallying the totals we have two clear winners:
Madeline and Greg, who vyed for first place with four and five correct answers, respectively. The prize for each of these winners is a bare-root tree, locally sourced and hand-selected. We didn’t make this easy on you, so we’re mightily impressed with all of you.

 


Week 6: Mystery Plant December 26th, 2011

Happy Holidays, Plant Puzzlers! Are you enjoying figgy pudding and playing games with family? Our last Puzzler begins today–but first, a recap of last week’s Mystery Plant. Verbena Lilacena was the plant in question. Our hint alluded to its “lilac-colored blooms” in the hopes that wordplay would jog your plant cells. Our big winners for the week? Madeline and Kaveh! Congrats!

Join us in donating to the SLO Botanical Garden with our very last Plant Puzzler. This week’s contender:

  • My dark evergreen foliage is arranged in grassy green clumps
  • Emerging only in the fall and winter, my flowers are chunky and egg-shaped
  • Each bloom has a radiant yellow base that blends to a brilliant reddish-orange cone of tubular flowers
  • My leaves are arching and keeled

Our last Puzzler will be revealed on Monday, January First. Enjoy your New Year Celebrations, plot your guesses, share your tips and tricks, and visit our site to make your guesses!

 


2011 Plant Puzzler #5 December 19th

Ready for the Latest, Plant Lovers? Lots of good guesses this week, and some close calls, too! This Mystery Plant was tricky because it bears a strong resemblance to its agave cousins. Many guessers accurately identified the species, Agave vilmoriniana, but then broke into divergent camps in terms of the cultivar, with ‘Stained Glass’ and ‘Variegata’ being the top two.

Perhaps surprisingly, ‘Variegata’ is a variety of agaves that is no longer grown. Once it was discovered, ‘Stained Glass’ gained immediate popularity for its brighter colors and stronger contrast. It was also our choice for last week’s Plant Puzzler! Congratulations Megan, Chris, Greg, Madeline, Nick, and Kaveh!

Remember: Your accurate guesses are building the donation cache which will benefit the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden. Our Facebook page will contain a hint this Wednesday, December 21st for this week’s Mystery Plant.

This One’s Got Flower Power

 

  • I’m what’s known as a “sub-shrub”
  • I grow in tidy 3×4 mounds
  • My leaves are deeply dissected
  • My blooms are a rich, vibrant purple that fades as time passes
  • Per season, I’m one of the longest-blooming plants on the Central Coast

2011 Plant Puzzler #4 December 12th

CONGRATULATIONS to our many winners this week! Dendromecon rigida var. harfordii was our Mystery Plant, and these plant-o-files were all spot on: Heather, Alice, Bracey, Mike, Chrystal, Kaveh, Madeline, Becki, Daniel, Mary, and Greg 

DON’T FORGET:

For every correct Plant Puzzler answer we receive, we’ll donate $1.00 to the SLO Botanical Garden. The top two people who guess the most correct plants at the end of the contest will win a bare-root tree! Check back next Monday, December 19th for the Correct answer to our Mystery Plant for December 12th’s Plant Puzzler.

 

 

And now, introducing our next Mystery Plant: 

  • I originated on steep Mexican cliff sides
  • My brethren grow practically vertically
  • My arching, curving, serpentine leaves are succulent in texture and variegated in color
  • My many leaves are dried and pounded into a fibrous brush whose bristles contain their own soap (I’ve always been good at multi-tasking)
  • Note: The cultivar we’re looking for in this puzzler adds a twist to the regular species, boasting creamy yellow bands that run the length of the leaves.

WHO AM I??

Enter your guess here! Include your name and email where required, and in the comment box, write the genus, species, and (where applicable) the cultivar name of the current week’s Mystery Plant. Write “Plant Puzzler” in the box marked “Phone” and include the date of the post with your entry. One guess per person, please!

Visit our Facebook page on Wednesday the 14th for a hint!